Elsie Fox

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Elsie Fox (born Elsie de Sola; November 27, 1902 – November 5, 1993) was an American minor screenwriter in the 1930s. She was the biological mother of novelist Paula Fox and great-grandmother of singer-songwriter and actress Courtney Love.[citation needed]

Life and career[edit]

Fox was born Elsie de Sola in Mantanzas, Cuba[1] to Spanish-born Candelaria de Carvajal and her husband Fermin de Sola, a sugarcane plantation owner she had married at age 16. Candelaria's father, Vicente de Carvajal, had arranged the marriage. The youngest of five, Elsie had four older brothers: Fermin, Leopold, Frank ("Panchito"), and Vincent.

At age 19, Elsie married American novelist/screenwriter Paul Hervey Fox, and they collaborated on numerous films; by all accounts, both were alcoholics. Their script for The Last Train from Madrid (1937) was reportedly so bad that it resulted in a film Graham Greene called "the worst movie I ever saw."[2] However, Elsie and Paul led an outwardly glamorous and excessive life in the same vein as the Fitzgeralds (and in fact socialized with F. Scott and Zelda, among others), and were passionately devoted to liquor, cigarettes, and madcap outings. Elsie partied with her husband's cousin Douglas Fairbanks and was once thrown into a lake by Humphrey Bogart because, according to her granddaughter, she "was quite awful... She was really mean."

When Elsie gave birth to daughter Paula in 1923, she and Paul were ill-equipped for parenthood and gave her up for adoption.[3] According to Paula, the Foxes were "cruelly feckless parents" who passed her among various family friends and relatives from Long Island to Cuba—just prior to the 1933 revolution—to Florida, California, and ultimately to boarding school in Montreal.[4]

According to the Seattle Weekly, Elsie was her great-granddaughter Courtney Love's "intellectual wild-child doppelgänger." Her granddaughter Linda Carroll (Love's mother) said, "They [Paul and Elsie] were wild ... I think what's fascinating is that Courtney has this showbiz life inside her that emerged with no knowledge that it was in her background."

According to Paula's 2001 memoir, Borrowed Finery, Paula did not meet her mother until age five, and her adolescent encounters with Elsie ranged from hysterical to brutal. During one visit, Elsie threw her full drink at Paula, who wrote, "For years I assumed responsibility for all that happened in my life, even for events over which I had not the slightest control... It was a hopeless wish that I would discover why my birth and my existence were so calamitous for my mother." Paula and Elsie ultimately became so estranged that they did not see each other for nearly 40 years.

In the mid-1940s, Elsie married writer Harmon Tupper and moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts, where they co-authored dozens of lifestyle articles under the names "Harmon and Elsie Tupper" for magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Weekly.

Harmon Tupper died in 1988 and Elsie remained in Nantucket for the remainder of her life. Her final visit with daughter Paula was so disastrous that when Elsie died months later, at age 90, Paula "felt hollow, listless," and did not mourn her. Elsie's granddaughter, Linda Carroll, likewise claims that when she visited Elsie shortly before the latter's death, Elsie "answered the door and said, 'Are you a Jehovah's Witness?' I said, 'No, actually I'm your granddaughter.' She was really remarkable, really fun. She was very estranged from my mother. She was very gracious, but she wasn't warm. She was very cold."

Upon Elsie's death, she bequeathed her estate to the Nantucket Atheneum library. Her four generations of descendants include her great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter, Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain.[3]

Further reading[edit]

  • Seattle Weekly, Courtney's Family Curse: Kurt Cobain's wild widow comes from a long line of misbehaving mamas, March 22, 2006, by Tim Appelo
  • Borrowed Finery: A Memoir (Henry Holt) by Paula Fox, Henry Holt & Company, 2001


External links[edit]